When I was a kid, I had one of those silly kid dreams of what I could grow up and be.  And I got my heart broken.

I really tried to pursue it.  I had my dream of seeing my name where people could read it daily.  I started doing it at the lowest levels, and without much talent, scrapped my way up the ladder.  I was definitely a minor league guy, but I was doing it.  I thought I was starting to even be a little good at it.  But then, as I got closer to the Show, I began to see what my dream was in reality, and how numb and sad and so far from the ideals I once had it had fallen.  And it broke my heart, so I let go of the dream.

I’m not talking about becoming a ballplayer.  No, I had no talent in little league, and never took it further.  Hell, I’m lucky the batting cages at Malibu closed or else I’d still be out there letting the kids’ pitch speed make me look like a fool.

I’m talking about becoming a sportswriter.

This isn’t anything new.  I got disillusioned a decade ago, but watching the ridiculousness of the MLB Hall of Fame vote scratched open some old wounds, particularly how Dan Le Batard was received among his peers.



Meanwhile, the baseball fan nation wasn’t exactly clear in their thoughts on Le Batard, but most that I saw generally supported it, in spirit if not in method.

But reading the venom with which several sportswriters were reviled by the thought of one of their own polling the fans and voting on those results…it was more than a little revealing to me.

I don’t think that what Le Batard did was necessarily the most intellectual way to go about it, and I’d agree with some writers that it was a call for attention by a guy with a show on the little sister network.  But unlike idiots like Damon Bruce, at least what Le Batard did, however misguided, was in the guise of respecting what fans wanted.  And most writers I’ve seen paid that no mind at all.  And it’s no worse than Ken Gurnick, who has decided to blanket non-vote anyone from the PED era (except for Jack Morris, who did play quite a bit in the era).

And that’s the problem: baseball writers have become, in general, too disconnected from the fans of the game.

It might be ironic, in this day and age of Twitter and the internet and all the ways to interact with sports writers.  And it’s not necessarily the fault of the writers, as I am well aware there are some fans who are obnoxious enough to put the “professionals” off of all of us and make them disconnect.  But this vote more than anything has just highlighted the disconnect.

One might think that the internet would make it easier for aspiring and talented sportswriters to come up and get known, but the truth is it doesn’t.  Ask I can say as a small-press author (SHAMELESS PLUG: it’d be cool if you bought my book!), it is hard to get heard through the amazing amount of noise created by everybody and their brother trying their hand at writing.  So the ones that become famous are often simply just loud, not good.

It’s also ironic that in a sport where many sportswriters have been clamoring for the game to come into the modern day it has resisted so much with things like instant replay, that they themselves are so put off by changing themselves and have become part of the antiquated establishment.

The voting system is broken.  It’s not shattered…it’s not like Jacque Jones or Armando Benitez or J.T. Snow got into the Hall of Fame (and I say that as a fan who loved watching J.T. play and respects the hell out of him).  But the ballots haven’t gone through any expansion themselves even through the expansion era.  That, and some bullheaded hypocrisy, has left a ballot too crowded, and writers are engaging in Survivor-esque strategies to vote to keep players alive on the ballot rather than vote for the 10 best (if that) to get into the hall.

The answer is not to give fans the vote.  We’ve all seen too many All-Star Games.  It’s not to give players the vote, we’ve all seen how high school elections work.  Maybe it’s time to diversify the vote, however, among all the people who have a stake.  Fans, writers, players, management…everyone.

However, it is clear that it is the writers who have screwed this whole thing up.  It’s not the steroid users who screwed it up…after all, who were the ones who celebrated them?  Who told us fans how amazing they were?  Who berated the first writer who suggest Mark McGwire wasn’t all natural?  And, assuming we believe that Barry Bonds started using after 1998 because of how far behind he thought he was falling from McGwire and Sosa, who were the ones who, however indirectly, put that idea in their heads?

Right…the same sportswriters who voted Barry Bonds an MVP 5 times…even at the height of the steroid suspicion wave.

And I don’t hear any of them acting nearly as indignant at the other major sports, especially football, where you can’t tell me that ever-increasing size and speed of players that are causing concussions is from all-natural weightlifting routines.

And assholes like Jon Heyman have the audacity to call others “Santimonious” [sic]?

It’s hypocrisy, plain and simple, and it makes me sick and sad to have wanted to be one of them.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of fans who want to see all of baseball, even the bad parts, told to everyone.

Look, steroids happened.  So did racism and segregation.  And gambling.  And players spiking their peers, or fighting with fans.  Ignoring those things won’t make anything better.

And yet, too many sportswriters somehow feel they are the modern-day Templar Knights, with pens far mightier than swords and keyboards for shields, making their yearly crusades east to the holy land of Cooperstown to fight off the hordes of BALCO and Biogenesis.

When I started being a journalist and writing about sports, I didn’t hold any lofty aspirations.  It’s writing about sports, not Woodward and Bernstein.  And while I never stopped being a fan, I took the ethics of the job seriously.  I could have gone to as many minor league games as I wanted, for free, but I made sure myself and the other writers I became an editor for only went to ones with clear assignments.  Hell, I still get sent invites to events like last year’s California League All-Star Game (hosted by the San Jose Giants) for free, but I won’t accept.  I bought my tickets to that game.  It didn’t feel right to go about it any other way.  I knew I could be a fan, and yet write honest opinions, even being critical about players I really liked and rooted for.  It’s not that hard, really.

But nowadays, it seems that the sportswriters we have feel they need to be guardians of the game.  Gatekeepers.  And guys like me and Rog, well, we’re just part of the noise.

They aren’t.  They shouldn’t be, and they shouldn’t act like it.  It’s not that important.  It’s not that grand.  It sure as hell isn’t noble.

We should not be guardians or gatekeepers.  I’m not entirely sure we should be entertainers (says the comic strip writer).

How about we be librarians?

Or maybe teachers?

Hell, let’s even be philosophers once in a while.

But, most of all, we should be fans.

And it’s a damn shame that most of you sportswriters out there these days sure don’t seem like you are.